Why are the social sciences so important in tackling climate change?

James O’Toole is coordinator of the End Use Energy Demand Centres. Here he looks at why researchers across all academic disciplines have a key part to play in addressing greenhouse gas emissions.

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Scientist stereotypes?

In the public consciousness, climate change science tends to focus on natural scientists (chemists, physicists, biologists etc). Whether they are developing more energy efficient technologies, mapping weather patterns or testing the air for emissions, the perception is of lab coats, goggles and technical equipment. Continue reading

Does the carrier bag charge make us more green?

Why does charging for carrier bags encourage environmentally-friendly behaviour, but other initiatives do not? This is the question being posed here by Lorraine Whitmarsh, Professor of Environmental Psychology in the School of Psychology, Cardiff University and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

You can also read this article in this month’s Society Now magazine, which is out later this week.

Lorraine Whitmarsh

Latest figures show that in less than a year, the English carrier bag charge has led to reductions in single-use carrier bags of around 80 per cent. This is similar to reductions achieved in other countries, including Wales (90 per cent), Scotland (80 per cent) and Northern Ireland (72 per cent), where similar charges have been implemented. Continue reading

As ESRC launches multi-million pound initiative tackling drug resistant infections, can we look at Da Vinci for inspiration?

Today the ESRC has launched a new multi-million pound initiative which aims to expand understanding of how the behaviour of professionals, organisations and the public impacts on anti-microbial resistance (AMR) – particularly resistance to antibiotics and other drugs.

The new call is part of the wider cross-research council initiative on AMR. The ESRC is looking for academics, from across the social and medical sciences and the arts and humanities, to lead collaborative research on how we can enhance or control the spread of AMR.

As the new call launches, the University of Bristol‘s Dr Christie Cabral and Dr Helen Lambert, ESRC AMR Champion, look at how spreading knowledge across the sciences is key.

Christie Cabral

Christie Cabral

Helen Lambert

Helen Lambert






Anti-microbial resistance (AMR) is a ‘wicked problem’ which leads to drug resistant infections.  The evidence is incomplete or contradictory, there are many different interest groups with different needs and views, and the ‘solution’ depends on how the ‘problem’ is framed and vice versa.  Like other ‘wicked problems’ (eg climate change, species conservation, pandemic influenza) that result from the complex interaction of a huge range of influences, there is no single, simple solution and so our response needs to be multifaceted.   Continue reading